The Skull Fender Lamp


It’s not really Steampunk… But it’s cool so I figured I’d post it here anyways. Maybe it’s Dieselpunk.. who knows. At any rate almost a year and a half ago my friend John asked me if I would sculpt a skull onto his motorcycle fender for him. Sure! No problem! Of course like most things I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.

It’s was a long, long journey, but I have to admit it was close to 9 months before I actually started on this project from the time he gave me the fender, so all in all I’d say I spent 6 months start to finish on this thing. I’m happy it’s done now because it means I can go back to creating my evil steampunk creations, which is where my true bliss lies.

It all started with a mold of the fender

I started by building a plaster positive of the fender to sculpt the skull on. I wrapped the fender in saran wrap and built up a few layers of plaster bandages. When they set up, I popped it off the fender and used more bandages to close off the open back side of the mold, then filled the mold with Plaster of Paris. I built it up to a thickness of about an inch and a half. When it was all set up, I peeled the bandages off and gave it a light scuff with some sandpaper to clean it up a bit. A couple of coats of clear lacquer to seal it and it was ready for the clay!

The next stage involved lots of cussing and drinking as the form of the skull took shape in the clay. I used Roma Plastilina clay #2 because it never dries out, and good thing too.. I think I spent close to three months total before I was happy with the sculpture. I’d work on it.. let it sit for a week or so, then change it.. let it sit.. then change it again..

When I finally had the sculpture where I wanted it, I built up a mold wall around it and poured silicone mold material all over it. Fun stuff silicone.. and well worth the investment if you need to pull a rigid final positive.

When the silicone was set up the next day, I covered it with a layer of fiberglass. When that was set up, I popped the whole shebang off the plaster fender and dug the clay out of the mold.. voila! Almost done! NOT!

Finally I was getting somewhere.. I broke out the fiberglass again and poured a couple gell coats into the mold before building up about 4 layers of fiberglass cloth inside the mold. After that long, tedious, messy process I finally pulled a finished fiberglass positive from the mold.. now on to the fitting phase.

I sanded, trimmed, and sanded some more until the fiberglass matched the curve of the fender as good as it was going to, then covered the fender with saran wrap once again and put a layer of fiberglass cloth over it to ‘seat’ the skull to the curvature. I wanted as much ‘purchase’ area as possible when I glued the skull to the fender, and setting the skull into a layer of fiberglass wrapped around the fender allowed me to build a good inch of surface area under the skull to get a good glue joint. I trimmed and sanded some more, and built up the fiberglass inside the skull to mate it to the new base. Then came the moment of truth.. time to really attach it.

I got out the fiberglass for what I hoped would be the last time, and slathered it on the fender, then plopped the skull home and held it in place ’till it set up. Then it was time for sanding, sanding, sanding. I used an automotive high-build sanding primer, and spot putty to finish out the transition between the fiberglass and the fender. I ran a small wire through the hole in the fender and through one eye hole on the skull before gluing it down, so I could pull an electrical wire through for the lights later on.

After days of sanding, puttying, sanding, priming, sanding, ad nauseum, it was finished. I fished a wire through the skull, wired the LED’s for the lights and popped them into their holes! AHHHHH… finally done. Now I’ll ship it to John and he’ll take it to someone to get painted. I can’t wait to see the final product. I’ll post a photo or two here when I get some.

This was a really fun project, but I have to say never again.. haha. The next post will be more steampunk, I promise!